After a lean 2009, Brisbane firms are sensing that the tide has turned. ALB talks to the key players.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has always been an exponent of immigration and a “big Australia” and now, as Brisbane’s urban sprawl advances inexorably along the eastern seaboard, Queenslanders have an exclusive preview of Rudd’s expansionist vision for Australia. In recent years, housing developments have broken out like a rash along hitherto undeveloped land in the south east, accommodating a rise in international and interstate immigration. The result is that, in a period of economic conservatism, Queensland has continued to lead the way in infrastructure development. The A$1.7bn Gold Coast Rapid Transit, the A$1.6bn Sunshine Coast University Hospital and A$1.7bn Northern Link Tunnel linking Toowong to Bowen Hills in Brisbane are just some of many projects either mooted or already underway to service Queensland’s burgeoning population.
Mind you, Queensland could do with the boost - financial year 2009 was the weakest year for the Queensland economy since 1991. In line with the comparative resilience of the Australian economy during the economic downturn, the Queensland economy did manage to record a modest 1% growth. While household consumption slumped, business investment actually increased 10%, largely as a result of momentum from projects already under construction. Public investment was also an important stimulant.
Queensland law firms saw the warning signs in late 2008 and braced themselves accordingly. But while 2009 was in many respects a lean patch, it was not the disaster many had predicted. “It’s mostly business as usual – the whole firm stayed busy,” says Thynne & Macartney partner John Moore. “We battened down the hatches, but we haven’t had to survive any storm.”
HopgoodGanim, which achieved 34% revenue growth in 2008, managed to retain revenues slightly above 2008 levels last year. It’s a result which has pleased managing partner Bruce Humphrys: “We made the decision to protect jobs for the greater good. We worked to hold onto staff and also to be flexible on the debtor side of things, where clients were under pressure. To keep revenues at 2008 levels in those circumstances is a good result.”
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